In an interview with Chapter 16 last September, Memphis author and Burke’s Books proprietor Corey Mesler described writing as “a great and challenging game.” Judging from his prodigious output of novels, short stories, and poems, it’s a game he plays with enormous enthusiasm. This year alone, Mesler released no fewer than four new books, including a collection of poems, Before the Great Troubling, that were declared “uniformly great” by The Commercial Appeal. The same review also praised Mesler as a poet who “gives accessible, intelligent poetry a good name.” Garrison Keillor appears to feel likewise: he included Mesler’s “Sweet Annie Divine” in his latest anthology, Good Poems, American Places.
Notes Toward the Story and Other Stories was Mesler’s first collection of short fiction this year, and Megan Abbott said that its quirky, experimental stories give “shimmer and depth to the most outlandish and commonplace of experiences,” while Steve Stern praised Mesler’s “bittersweet, always inventive, always beguiling voice.” In November, Mesler released another volume of stories, I’ll Give You Something to Cry About, as well as Gardner Remembers, a novel about a fictional Memphis musician. The busy author also popped up in the blogosphere this year, weighing in on everything from his multitude of literary heroes to his agoraphobia, which he credits, at least in part, for his abundant output. “I don’t recommend agoraphobia as a component of one’s writing method,” he said, “but, when I contemplate how much time I am home alone, I think, Damn it, you better be prolific.”
Mesler had some things to say about the value of libraries, as well, noting that he hoped they will continue to keep “the printed word as if it were the gold of Fort Knox. And keep it, please, in physical form: boards, glue, paper.” In the Chapter 16 interview, he expressed the same devotion to physical books, and talked about the particular pleasure of browsing in a brick-and-mortar store. “You go in and maybe you wanna look at the new Toni Morrison novel, or the new biography of Joseph Heller,” he said. “Then you find your fingers, through some recondite impulse, picking up an Anthony Burgess novel, or a Henry Green, or an Iris Murdoch, and it accompanies you to the checkout desk, goes into a sack and goes home with you, and, voila, you have a new collaborator in your home, a new puzzle, a new friend. That’s magic.”
Mesler’s prolificacy makes him a pretty constant presence in literary journals. Here’s just a sample of his many poems and short fiction pieces published this year. We’re eager to see what this hardworking, original writer turns out in 2012.
~“Viator” (short fiction) at Press 1
~“Lips” (poem) at Petrichor Review
~Two poems atPirene’s Fountain
~“The History of the Memphis 4H Group” (short fiction) at Otoliths
~“Night Logic (With Pain)” (poem) at Steel Toe Review
~Three poems at Verdad
For more updates on Tennessee authors, please visit Chapter 16’s News & Notes page, here.